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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jun 1;95(3):269-78. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.01.014. Epub 2008 Mar 12.

Lifecourse socioeconomic predictors of midlife drinking patterns, problems and abstention: findings from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study.

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  • 1National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.



Research suggests that outcomes associated with drinking may differ depending upon patterns of consumption, drinking related symptoms and social problems. This paper investigated socioeconomic predictors (measuring multiple indices, period and consistency of disadvantage) of midlife drinking patterns.


Socioeconomic information from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study (n=9146) included: manual socioeconomic position and owner/buyer residential tenure (7, 11, 16, 33 and 42 y), and educational attainment (33 y). At 45 y, the overlap between drinking patterns was explored using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Patterns included: 'Moderate-binge' (binge drinkers with low-problem scores, consuming within UK sensible drinking weekly guidelines); Low-Problem Heavy (LPH) drinkers (regardless of binge); 'Problem' (and heavy or binge) and 'Non-/occasional' (< or =monthly) drinkers. These categories were compared to 'Low-risk' drinkers.


Socioeconomic disadvantage was consistently associated with moderate-binge, non-/occasional and problem but not LPH drinking. The highest risk was associated with multiple and persistent disadvantage across childhood and adulthood; this risk was partially accounted for education. Non-/occasional and moderate-binge drinking was predicted by disadvantage during childhood alone. The socioeconomic disadvantage of non-/occasional drinkers was not explained by past problem or heavy drinking.


Socioeconomic disadvantage across the lifecourse was consistently linked to specific drinking patterns. Furthermore, associations linking socioeconomic disadvantage with drinking patterns will typically be underestimated if multiple and persistent disadvantage is not investigated. The role of persistent socioeconomic disadvantage in the poor health of non-drinkers and moderate-binge drinkers needs investigation. The findings support current initiatives targeting the reduction of social and individual costs associated with specific drinking patterns.

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